Swimmer ‘stunned’ by Lia Thomas while handling trophies

Riley Gaines, the Kentucky swimmer who finished fifth in the NCAA women’s 200-meter championships last month with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, still doesn’t have her trophy.

Gaines appeared on Senator Marsha Blackburn’s Unmuted podcast last week and opened up about what happened when she tied up Thomas.

“I touched the wall and saw there was a five next to my name indicating I was fifth, but the first thing I really looked at was who had won because I was so curious who was going to win the race ‘ Gaines said. “Because Lia won the 500-meter dash the night before. So I was more interested in who won than myself. I looked up and also saw a #5 with Lia’s name on it, so at that moment I realized we were tied.

“It was really a flood of emotions. I was very happy for the girls above me overcoming the seemingly impossible by beating Lia and it was kind of a succession of emotions. I was really shocked.”

Blackburn asked Gaines if she had her trophy yet.

“No, I didn’t,” she said. “It’s another crazy thing. As soon as I get out of the water, we go behind the podium to the awards ceremony, where the trophies will be distributed. So I went back there and the NCAA official came up to me and said, “Hey, we only have a trophy for fifth place” – which I understood.

“But he said, ‘We have to give this trophy to Lia. Yours come in the mail. Well done.’ I was a bit taken aback. I don’t think he necessarily expected me to really question that, but I said, ‘Okay, I understand, but may I ask why you decided to give the trophy to Lia?'”

Gaines claims the NCAA official replied, “Well, we’re just giving out the trophies in chronological order.”

Lia Thomas
According to Gaines. Thomas received a trophy for her tie, but she has yet to receive hers.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That wasn’t an adequate response to Gaines, whose father, Brad Gaines, was a star fullback at Vanderbilt.

“So I was like, ‘Chronological order. We just tied. I don’t really know what we’re doing chronologically. Can you explain?’ He just looked at me and said, ‘We have to give the trophy to Lia, but we respect and admire you so much.’ said Gaines.

“At that point he was basically admitting to me that the NCAA was trying to save face. I don’t think they handled it properly, but I don’t think they were prepared to handle this type of situation. They were faced with something they didn’t know what to do with.”

Gaines added that after speaking to the official, she was dissatisfied with the NCAA’s response.

“At that point, I got really frustrated and I said to them, ‘This is her ladies 200-yard freestyle, Lia won a national title last night, and I’ve worked for it every day for the past four years. Which isn’t to say that Lia or any of the other swimmers didn’t because it’s such a big deal to get to that point,” Gaines said. “Only the top 1 percent of college athletes make it to this meetup. You have to fight for every point. I was frustrated with how it was handled and how they addressed me.”

Riley Gaines
Gaines encouraged high school athletes to use their voice.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Blackburn asked Gaines what words of encouragement she would give to high school athletes.

“The thing I’ve learned the most from all of this is to use your voice,” Gaines replied. “Before I said anything publicly a few weeks ago, where I was the first or second to object myself, I realized that there are so many girls who feel the same way as I do but who are told that they aren’t allowed to say anything, or they’re scared because today’s culture is an “escape culture” and they don’t want to risk their future in athletics or their future career. There are so many things you can mine with it.

“But I realized that if you want change, you have to use your voice. We need to let people know as a group that the majority of us athletes – or women in general – don’t agree with that. We don’t agree with how this is going or how it might end in a few years.” Swimmer ‘stunned’ by Lia Thomas while handling trophies


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